In a too-familiar scenario, Vancouver stands in for City by the Bay, whose film workers miss out on benefits
In the blockbuster film “Godzilla,” the rampaging reptile spectacularly lays waste to large portions of San Francisco. It makes for a great monster movie mayhem, but for the City by the Bay, it’s adding insult to injury.
“Godzilla,” a co-production of Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., filmed just four days in San Francisco – with Vancouver standing in for the majority of the scenes.
“While we’re always proud to see San Francisco featured in any film, knowing how few days they filmed here and how many jobs our local crews and actors missed out on makes it frustrating,” Susannah Greason Robbins, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission, told TheWrap.
“Too many productions shoot elsewhere, lured by stronger monetary incentives, and then just do a few days of establishing shots here,” she said. “While the general public may not realize the film wasn’t actually shot here, we know, and it’s a huge loss.”
The snub might be easier to handle for the city’s film industry, if the scenario weren’t such a familiar one.
Fox’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is similarly San Francisco-set, but filmed primarily in British Columbia and New Orleans. Ditto with Warner Bros.’ “San Andreas,” the Dwayne Johnson action film that deals with the aftermath of a devastating California earthquake — but is filming primarily in Australia. In Disney’s upcoming “Ant Man,” it’s Georgia that will stand in for San Francisco. And in the upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger action epic “Terminator: Genesis,” it will be New Orleans that subs in.
Seeing a trend here?
It made it easy for Robbins to speak from the heart when she spoke last week at a hearing of the California Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, which was considering legislation that would extend and expand California’s TV and movie tax credit program, which currently lags well behind those offered by other states. New York, for example, offers more than $400 million in credits annually, compared to California’s $100 million.
“Films with budgets over $75 million can’t even apply for our current state tax credit,” Robbins said. “That’s why they all shoot in states or countries with tax credits and other incentives that help defray their costs.”
The bill, AB 1839, would expand eligibility to include blockbuster-budgeted films. It’s currently wending its way through the state Legislature, and its backers hope to clear the Assembly and Senate and get it on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk by fall.
One facet of the measure is designed to specifically aid cities like San Francisco and San Diego. It provides an extra 5 percent credit to films that shoot in cities outside Los Angeles, where the film industry is based. The bill’s authors, Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) included that provision so that the bill would provide benefits — and win support — statewide.
“We’re counting on that,” said Robbins.